146. Wes Montgomery / Smokin' at the Half Note (1965)
Smokin' is the second collaboration between Montgomery and the Wynton Kelly Trio. They played on a couple of his other albums, too, and they make a solid group. The trio is Kelly, Chambers and Cobb. Having said as much I shouldn't have to say more because the names, let alone the music, practically say it all. I'll listen to anything with these guys. Only two of the five tracks on the original LP are actually live from the venue, "If You Could See Mee Now" and "No Blues." The other three are from (where else?) Van Gelder's studio. It doesn't really matter because both dates are terrific. Our opener "No Blues" pushes 13 minutes in length, marked by Montgomery's fat tone and heavy right hand. It's also an interesting piece as far as Miles covers go, dating from his 'casting around' period before the second great quintet formed up. But getting back to Wes, his melodic constructions in "Unit Seven" are something to marvel at. It's refreshingly cogent jazz thinking, replete with strong musicality and inventive spirit. For both live and studio material, Chambers and Cobb are the bedrock while Kelly is probably the perfect pianist for this group, having both the technical facility and bluesy swagger necessary to enhance the brew. If you want to learn what jazz guitar is all about, this is a good entry point.